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AMST 101/ Summer 2019

ESSAY ASSIGNMENT # 2: DECIPHERING THE ADVERTISING CODE: WORTH 100 POINTS

In this module, you have been learning about the system of American mass/popular culture and how “texts” convey meaning within that system. You have also learned about the use of the semiotic method to read the signs embedded in these texts to uncover that meaning.

In this essay, you will choose a print advertisement or commercial (the only parameter is that you need to be able to provide a hyperlink to your chosen advertisement at the top of your essay). You should choose an ad that you think is particularly shocking, humorous, beautiful, effective, offensive, or

interesting. Your assignment is to write an essay in which you use the semiotic method to describe the advertisement and explain how it appeals/what it means to its target audience.

In writing this essay you should especially consider the following questions. (Note: Your essay does not necessarily need to answer all these questions and should not be merely a point-by-point response to

them.)

1. Who is the target audience for this ad? How do you know? For this question, pay attention to where the ad appears. Is it in a women’s magazine, car magazine, etc? Also look at the ages of the models in the ad.

2. What is the historical context for this product, target audience, and/or advertising strategy?

3. What is the basis for the appeal of this ad? Keep in mind the various types of appeals that we discussed in class (rebellion, status, adventure/fun, patriotic, group, fear/guilt, humor, etc). Also, remember that ads may use several forms of appeal together.

4. What “signs” or elements do the ad designers use to create this appeal? Pay attention to body language, facial expressions, environment, props, colors, and copy (the writing in the ad).

5. How do these elements convey the appeal?

6. Is the appeal/ad effective? Why?

7. Why might the audience for the ad be particularly vulnerable to this appeal? For example, why might teenagers be drawn to ads that sell status or group belonging?

Your thesis should explain how all of these “signs” or elements in the ad convey meaning to the target audience by exploiting the myths, desires, and/or ideologies instilled in them by their larger cultural systems.

Your essay should be a minimum of 725 words, double-spaced, in a standard 12-point font. Remember to always cite direct quotations and paraphrasing via endnotes, footnotes, or parenthetical in-text citations—if you are unsure of how to properly cite a source, please refer to TITANium (under Resources) and review the available information.

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